Gallery Diet's "Behind the Curtain" Is an Uneven Show That Disappoints

Last Thursday night, Gallery Diet ushered in the Wynwood arts season with a group exhibit titled "Behind the curtain, a lock of hair falling." The mixed bag features 18 works by seven artists hailing from Los Angeles, New York, and Miami working independently of each other but whose practice Diet deems complimentary. Diet's press release describes the uneven offering as an "atmospheric fog of delusional pop, figurative indulgence, and playfulness bordering on pornography."

(OMG or What the Hell! in Cubaniche), for once we couldn't agree more. In other words, in an era when art is pretty much up for grabs and anything goes, this is the type of exhibit that reminds one of tossing strands of wet spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks.

On opening night about 60 people showed up for the event. The rainy Wynwood streets were barren with the exception of a massive police presence around the corner from the gallery. About half a dozen City of Miami squad cars and private security trucks where idling outside Joey's Italian Restaurant that had been robbed during dinner service the Monday before. The only thing missing from the scene was a police helicopter overhead.

But if the authorities had issued an APB for perps at large in the hood, suspects might have included Joshua Abelow, Debo Eilers, and Martin Oppel all part of the line up at Diet down the block.

Abelow's self portraits are rudimentary and the type of drawings and paintings that will leave some viewers yanking the hair from their heads. The New York artist is represented by several diminutive oil on burlap pieces that although richly textured, might earn him the moniker of "paint-squandering, canvas-harming varmint" instead.

Abelow creates dancing stick figures with turgid penises, a drawing of a cross between Archie comic's Jughead and Cyrano de Bergerac getting his schnozz sucked off, and in another his cell phone number against a geometric grid.

Debo Eilers, also from the Big Apple, heists the peepers with Spoogoo, a mixed media misdemeanor reminiscent of a drunken brawl at a neon-bright Gotham pool hall. The fluorescently hued wall-mounted assemblage appears not unlike a crushed window frame someone has been thrown through.

Bits of colored broken tile are arranged around the structure, Draped down its front is a piece of toxic radiator cooler-green colored fabric that brings to mind the felt-covering torn from a pool table and stiffened with epoxy resin. Priced at a felonious ten grand, the squalid piece strikes one as a con man's flim-flam or a loser's bet.

Oppel's misdeed is not his virtuouso recreation of an Ikea throw rug rendered with two-toned tan hues. Situated in the center of the gallery, his rug, created from sand fools the eye from a distance appearing much like the real McCoy. The patchwork pattern raises from the ground in level, square mounds, with the exception of a few scattered areas, the evidence that some knucklehead during the opening stepped on parts of it.

No the felony here is the larcenous $4K value attached to Oppel's grainy opus considering that the original Ikea version is priced at around 25 bucks and that someone wishing to make their own version can purchase a five-pound bag of Yesterday's News Cat Litter for $3.99 at the neighborhood market and recreate it in their parlor if they don't have access to a beach.

In fact Oppel's ephemeral sand rug will enjoy a short shelf life at Diet then will probably be shoveled off in a bucket or trash bag out of the gallery unceremoniously and never to be seen again at the end of the show.

Miami's Nicolas Lobo has a wall engulfing video in Diet's Project Room of a masked spray-painter wearing a hazmat suit covering the walls of a space with grape juice to a Justin Bieber soundtrack slowed down 800 percent. During the 14-minute epic, viewers get to watch the purple mess spewed on the walls slowly fade.

We're not about to call Diet, which garnered New Times' "Best Gallery" nod back in 2009, delinquent, but this uneven show strikes us as a bit of a stretch.

See "Behind the curtain, a lock of hair falling" through October 1. Gallery Diet (174 NW 23rd Street, Miami). Call 305-571-2288 or visit gallerydiet.com.

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